By MICHAEL KEEGAN, president of People for the American Way
Antigay extremists are increasingly arguing that more rights for gay people mean fewer rights for them. They have lifted up cases challenging business owners who have refused service to LGBT people as examples of religious liberty supposedly being infringed by the gay rights movement.
A conference taking place in Des Moines this week shows exactly what these claims of “religious persecution” really are — a cover for a political agenda that’s about anything but liberty.
Republican presidential candidates Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, and Bobby Jindal are expected to speak at the so-called National Religious Liberties Conference alongside what organizers call “targeted men and women of faith,” including David and Jason Benham, who claim to have been persecuted after their vitriolic antigay rhetoric caused them to lose a contract for a television program, and Sgt. Phillip Monk, whose claims to have suffered anti-Christian discrimination at the hands of a lesbian superior have been thoroughly debunked.
The organizers of this conference are not looking to simply freely practice their religion. Instead, they have made it abundantly clear that they wish to use the power of the government to impose their religious beliefs on others.
Three speakers at this “religious liberties” conference have defended imposing the death penalty on gay people — yes, the death penalty — including the conference’s main organizer, Kevin Swanson. Swanson has made very clear that he does not wish to grant anybody else the religious liberty that he claims he is being denied. He praised a Ugandan measure that would have made homosexuality a criminal offense punishable by life in prison or the capital punishment. He continually reminds listeners of his radio program that the Old Testament requires that “homosexuals should be put to death.”
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